TTE: Just One Person (Email 9)

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Note: This is an archive of an email from the April 1-7, 2020 launch series of The Traffic Engine (Early Adopter Edition).

It's the home stretch.

I'll be sleeping in late on Wednesday. Shawn won't, the fun will just begin for the old git.

Over to Shawn…

SHAWN: Mon, April 6, 2020

Write to just one person.

How many times have you heard that advice?

I know I've heard it — a lot — and I thought I understood what it meant. I realized Friday I hadn't appreciated how powerful that simple idea can be.

Let me take a step back and give some context so this idea makes more sense.

As orders for The Traffic Engine landed in my inbox Friday, I noticed several names I recognized — people I respect, many of them authorities in digital marketing.

Shortly after, the nervousness started to creep in.

No one is immune from a little self-doubt once in a while, and I started to imagine all of the ways I might get something wrong.

My last call of the day Friday was with a dear friend who will be in the first cohort to go through The Traffic Engine.

She's a gifted thinker and communicator, and just a wonderful human being who I absolutely adore.

As she described her project to me, I began to imagine all of the ideas I want to share with her over the next eight weeks.

I could see exactly what she needs to do and how, and I was so excited knowing the possibilities for her that lay ahead.

I want her project to succeed because I know the value she brings to the world. And, of course, because she is my friend.

In that moment of clarity, I understood what it means to write for just one person. And who you choose to write for makes all the difference.

If I were to choose to write for an ‘expert', I would be doing most participants in The Traffic Engine a disservice.

If, instead, I were to choose to write for my friend — who I know is a lot like many of you — I'm much more likely to get the material right.


Write to just one person.

Imagine him (or her) clearly.

Don't focus so much on the ‘avatar', or the demographic or psychographic characteristics. Instead, imagine that person and ask yourself, what does she need?

What keeps her awake at night?

What really matters to her?

What difference will accomplishing something meaningful and challenging mean to her?

How can I communicate what I know in ways that make sense to her, not just to me?

There are, of course, many parallels to writing good ad copy, but that's not the point of today's email. Writing is hard, but we can make it easier.

Think about something you care about — how would you explain that to a close friend who you know could benefit from that knowledge?

Start there. Write to that person and see how different that feels.

Write to just one person.

Try it. Today.

I'll share a little secret with you. I've not shared elements of this ever before, and you'll not find mention of it on our public site.

I have a daily calendar task from 4pm — 5pm, Mon through Fri.

That's when I log in to Help Scout — our support desk software — and respond to emails.

Heidi covers all the admin emails, which leaves me to focus on the more nuanced questions that come in.

This is one of my most treasured times of the day because I get to communicate, one to one, with people new to my world, and “old hats” (where some discussions have been ongoing for months).

I get the gamut, and I value it all.

This is work that doesn't scale, but I do it because it matters, and it's important to me.

“Write to just one person,” as Shawn said above.

For an hour a day, I get to do this.

I get to feel the pulse of my audience, one person at a time. I learn things about my peeps I wouldn't have known before. Ever.

Needs and desires that matter to them.

Like Obed from Lagos, Nigeria. (Whom I'm pretty sure will be reading this email, because he reads all the emails I send to his inbox.)

Obed was seeking help because he couldn't afford any of our courses. In his words, “The fee for your course would pay my salary for 8 months back-to-back (working 12 hours, 5 days a week).”

So I gifted Obed LBC.

His response floored me, “You are saving my life!”

I'm rooting for Obed.

For years now, I've been gifting access to underprivileged people from Africa, who have the heart and drive to learn, to create a better life, but not the resources…

Those who ask, and through a conversation over email (“Write to just one person.”), demonstrate their desire to do the work, I give them a Willy Wonka Golden Ticket, and hope it makes a little difference.

No one knows I do this because this isn't about shaping perception. It's about a single person with a need or desire to make their life better.

It's about them, not me.

“Write to just one person” is a meta-concept that can have profound effects across all the work you do.

I've never needed (or wanted) to learn copywriting. It's a valuable skill for many marketers, I appreciate that. For me, it's too formulaic.

But mostly, when you know your peeps really deeply, you don't need to be a world-class copywriter to write copy that moves the hearts and minds of the right people to action.

Neither Shawn nor I are copywriters.

But we are writers.

The difference may seem like semantics. The truth is that the two skills are worlds apart.

One is rooted in empathy, forged from “writing to just one person,” the other, respectfully, is more about persuasion and coercion.

Influence comes from empathy and caring, then humbly expressing this in words (or voice) to the people seeking this change.

It's a loop.

It starts with hearing/seeing just one person, then expressing/writing to “just one person.”

Shawn is creating The Traffic Engine for one person, and if that person is you, come join us.

Tomorrow (Tue) is the final day to enroll for this first live cohort.

—André (and Shawn)